As in most parts of the world, getting rid of plastic packaging is a hot topic in Egypt. In the fruit and vegetable trade, the use of plastic packaging was the norm, but this attitude has shifted: “Environmental packaging is greatly sought out from organic produce growing brands as it became more suitable for their identity and made their customers more satisfied. Also the fruit and veg exporters have been determined to use environment-friendly, biodegradable packaging supplies ever since the EU banned single use plastic packaging for the damages it causes on our environment.” said Mohamed Ali, co-founder of the Egyptian packaging company Freshdeal.
Getting people to drop the plastic packaging and go for a more sustainable option was not always easy, according to Ali it took quite some educating: “For the past years, nearly all fruit/veg brands were packing their produce in plastic punnets since it was easy to obtain, protective when displayed above each other and the transparency aided in showing clearly what's inside the punnet. The greatest challenges we faced was the lack of knowledge towards how harmful plastic actually is, with many clients. So at the beginning they didn't realize how important and beneficial it was to replace plastic with paper in packaging.”
Now that people knew the importance of making the switch to paper packaging, Ali had the task of making the new option as appealing as possible in order to convince the final doubters in the industry: “We replaced all plastic punnet benefits by introducing our paper punnets with catchy designs, several holes in the top and sides to air out the produce and easily display what's inside, and the hard, durable material provides ultimate protection when being delivered or displayed in stores. The biodegradable punnets can be customized to many shapes and sizes, so it can generally take most of the small and medium sized produce like cucumber, grapes, strawberries, cherry tomato, citrus, okra and more... As with the paper bags, they carry up to 4kg in weight, which makes it a convenient option to pack potatoes in.”
Ali has made sure their punnets can be used for a variety of produce, as to supply as many growers and traders as possible: “Our punnets are best suited for berries, citrus, cucumber, cherry tomato and similar produce, while our bags are designed for heavier stuff like potato since they can carry up to 4kg without any risk of tearing or breaking. We also make wooden boxes of several sizes that are efficient in carrying fresh herbs, artichokes, carrots, peaches, and citrus.”
“We import some of the paper we work with from China. So the state of emergency the country was going through due to the corona virus has resulted in a lack of production on our side. Also, most of our clients are exporters to countries that are also going through a corona chaos so it is only normal that this period is not a peak period for most of us. We only hope for the general safety of everyone and that we find a permanent treatment for the virus as soon as possible so that we all can go back to leading normal lives.” Ali concludes.
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